Syria violence continues as ceasefire deadline passes


Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem speaks during a joint press conference with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov after their talks in Moscow, on April 10, 2012. After his talks with Lavrov Muallem said today that Syria had withdrawn troops from some provinces in line with a plan by UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan.


Alexander Nemenov

BEIRUT, Lebanon — The deadline for implementation of a ceasefire in Syria passed Tuesday morning, with activists reporting continued shelling and violence in cities across the country and the Syrian government claiming it began to pull troops out of cities, the BBC wrote.

According to the original agreement, Syrian was to withdraw its forces from "residential areas" by this morning. Rebels were to then lay down their arms, leading to a full ceasefire by Thursday morning at 6:00 a.m. local time.

Speaking from Hatay, Turkey, joint United Nations-Arab League envoy to Syria Kofi Annan, who proposed the six-point peace plan, said "the plan is still on the table," according to the BBC, and expressed optimism that the ceasefire would be implemented by Thursday, 48 hours after the start of the deadline.

The BBC said government forces today shelled Aleppo and Homs. Twenty-three were reported killed so far today according to the Los Angeles Times.

The Syrian National Council said 1,000 Syrians were killed in violence over the past eight days. Another 160 were killed yesterday, one day before the ceasefire was set to begin, The Associated Press reported.

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Bassma Kodmani, the SNC spokeswoman, accused Damascus of using anti-aircraft guns "against civilians in apparent defiance of an agreement to begin a ceasefire Apr. 10," and described the situation as "dramatically deteriorating," the AP wrote.

Western governments criticized the continuation of violence, with Britain's Foreign Secretary William Hague accusing the Syrian regime "of using the ceasefire deadline 'as a cover for intensified military efforts to crush Syria's opposition,' " according to the news wire.

Jim Muir, BBC correspondent based in Beirut, noted that after a meeting between Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov, Syrian foreign minister Walid Muallem effectively moved the goalposts of the ceasefire agreed to by the regime and the rebels. 

Muir said that the original six-point plan "called for the government to take the first step in pulling back its forces, and the opposition would follow suit in applying a ceasefire by Thursday morning. The observers would then come in to monitor an existing peace, not be part of the stabilization process in terms of going into a combat situation and trying to calm it themselves." 

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But today Muallem suggested observers arrive at the same time the ceasefire began.

"It indicates to me there is no clear way forward coming out of the meetings," Muir said.

Indicating displeasure with the state of the peace process, Lavrov said, "We believe that [Syria's] efforts to implement the plan could have been more active and resolute," according to the AP.